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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

John Bell

1962 (printed 2006)
Jozef Vissel

gelatin silver photograph on paper (sheet: 40.3 cm x 30.7 cm, image: 35.4 cm x 26.9 cm)
John Bell

John Bell AO OBE (b. 1940), actor and director, is one of Australia’s best-known theatre personalities. His theatre credits include work for the Old Tote Theatre Company, all of the major state theatre companies as actor and/or director and five years in the UK with The Royal Shakespeare Company. As co-founder of the Nimrod Theatre Company in Sydney, he presented many of Australia’s premiere productions of Australian plays in the 1970s and 1980s, including several David Williamson plays and Peter Kenna’s A Hard God. Nimrod also began the evolution of an Australian Shakespeare style with successful productions of Measure For Measure, Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth. In 1990 Bell founded The Bell Shakespeare Company, which has mounted acclaimed productions of many Shakespeare plays. Bell has acted for the company in the roles of Shylock, Richard III, Macbeth, Malvolio, Coriolanus, Leontes, Prospero and King Lear. In 2002, his Richard III earned him a Helpmann Award. Designated a National Living Treasure, he has two honorary doctorates and in 2003 he received the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Cultural Leadership Award.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the artist 2006
© Jozef Vissel

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Jozef Vissel (age 27 in 1962)

John Bell AO OBE (age 22 in 1962)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Donated by

Jozef Vissel (13 portraits)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries

Talking heads

About Face article

21 December 2020

In their own words lead researcher Louise Maher on the novel project that lets the Gallery’s portraits speak for themselves.

John Bell as King Lear oil on Belgian linen, 2001 by Nicholas Harding
John Bell as King Lear oil on Belgian linen, 2001 by Nicholas Harding
John Bell as King Lear oil on Belgian linen, 2001 by Nicholas Harding
John Bell as King Lear oil on Belgian linen, 2001 by Nicholas Harding

Lear unbuttoned

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2011

Sarah Engledow steps up to the footlights and applauds the storyline behind Nicholas Harding's portraits of actor John Bell.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

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